Protests continue in Bihar against power crisis
Patna: Protests against acute power shortages continued in Bihar for the fourth consecutive day Monday, thousands of people blocking roads, ransacking electricity board offices and burning rubber tyres, police said.
In the state assembly, the opposition members staged a protest and shouted slogans against the government's failure to address the situation.
Many legislators, including those of the ruling Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and its ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), raised the issue of acute power and water crisis and demanded immediate relief for the people.
The issue was raised in the state legislature Friday, Saturday and Monday.
Angry over a severe power crisis in Ara, district headquarters of Bhojpur, hundreds of people ransacked government offices, burnt rubber tyres at dozens of places and blocked roads. They forced shutdown of town and shouted slogans against Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
The situation was similar in the Nawada district.
Hundreds of protesters, including a large number of women with broom-sticks in hand, Sunday evening ransacked Sultanganj railway station in Bhagalpur district and attacked government offices.
Acute power shortage coupled with soaring mercury has sparked protests in over two dozen districts, including Muzaffarpur, Bhagalpur, Purnia, Kishanganj, Gaya, Begusarai, Darbhanga, Saharsa and Sheikhpura, since Friday. Reports of sporadic incidents of violence have reached here.
"Angry people took to the roads to protest lack of power. People forced a shutdown in Sheikhpura town and attacked and ransacked electricity offices in Sheikhpura and Saharsa Saturday," a police officer said.
Bhagalpur witnessed violent protests Friday and Saturday when people, including women and children, forced shutdown of the town and pelted stones at vehicles of district officials and police.
"Some protesters attacked public property, set ablaze vehicles of the electricity department and ransacked its offices," a police officer in Bhagalpur said.
Bihar Energy Minister Bijendra Prasad Yadav said the power situation cannot improve unless Bihar's own generation and central allocation is not increased substantially.
Yadav stated the government was helpless as power supply to Bihar is mainly dependent on the central grid.
The state is facing a power deficit of around 1,000-1,200 MW a day, officials said.
According to Bihar State Electricity Board officials, the crisis is due to the shutdown of three units at the Talcher power plant in Orissa and one unit at Kahalgaon, near Bhagalpur.
Bihar requires some 1,800-2,000 MW of power a day, but it is getting only 700-750 MW from the central pool, against a daily allocation of 1,646 MW.
The situation is particularly grim in Muzaffarpur, Bhagalpur and Saharsa, which face power cuts of over 24 hours at a stretch.
People in Gaya, a Buddhist pilgrimage and an international tourist centre, get electricity for only four to five hours a day. A similar situation is in Rajgir and Nalanda, another tourist centre in famous Buddhist circuit in Bihar.